M’sian Minister dismisses Singapore’s deadline for HSR meeting as ‘a suggestion’

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Singapore’s Ministry of Transport asked for an official reply from the Malaysian government on July 20, for them to clarify their official position on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR). They requested for a reply by July 31, and that Malaysia indicate if it still wished to hold bilateral talks on the project.

The Republic’s earlier deadline set lapsed without Malaysia giving a reply, and when speaking to reporters today, Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali dismissed the deadline set by Singapore as a “suggestion”.

He said, “That is Singapore’s suggestion. As I mentioned in my letter last week [to Singapore] we will firm up the date”.

He continued, “We are quite occupied for Parliament, hopefully we will meet in early August.”

There have been mixed signals from Malaysia with regards to the HSR, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his Cabinet ministers giving both firm vows to cancel it, and later suggestions hinting at possible deferment or continuation of the project.

Earlier this week, on his first official visit to Singapore, Malaysia’s foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah spoke of possibilities in reviewing water prices and talks of the HSR project. He said, “(The meeting) will take place very soon…we want to sit down and discuss”.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding the HSR, Singapore continues to incur costs on the project, with expenditure expected to hit some S$300 million by year-end.

Transport Minister Mr Khaw Boon Wan also said that the Government had spent over S$250 million on the project by the end of May this year.

In their statement on Friday, Singapore’s Transport Ministry said, “As the HSR bilateral agreement is a binding international treaty, both Malaysia and Singapore remain obliged to fulfil the existing terms of the agreement, in the absence of mutually agreed amendments to the agreement”.

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obbana@theindependent.sg